Decriminalizing and Legalizing Pot [Podcast]
What’s the difference between the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana?
Listen in on Lawyers.com reporter Matt Plessner’s podcast. He interviews San Francisco attorney, Matt Kumin, who explains the current laws regarding pot. Kumin tells you what decriminalizing and legalizing weed means and the laws of different jurisdictions.
Kumin is the founder of Medical Cannabis Counsel, which defends patient rights and conducts medical marijuana compliance workshops throughout the country. He has litigated the only U.S. tax case on income taxation of medical cannabis operations and is a member of the NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) legal committee.
Kumin explains federal law prohibits marijuana possession, cultivation, manufacture and distribution. So, on the federal level, marijuana is an illegal substance.
However, two states, Washington and Colorado, have made possession of marijuana for “recreational” or “wellness” use legal.
A total of 18 states, plus the District of Columbia have “medical cannabis” laws, where with a doctor’s recommendation, a person can be exempt from a state’s criminal marijuana statutes. These states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
As one example, in California, if a person has a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis, this person has “limited immunity.” Medical cannabis statutes also allow for affirmative defenses if a case goes to trial. Kumin briefly addresses the legality of cultivating and distributing marijuana. He says typically, cultivation for non-medical purposes in most states is a felony.
Through decriminalization, states reduce penalties for marijuana possession. For example, in California, a new law makes possessing less than an ounce of marijuana an infraction. This would be treated like a parking ticket and carries the lowest form of a legal penalty. Other states, counties and cities have different decriminalization statutes.
Later this year, Kumin and his colleagues will argue before the Ninth Circuit Court that the federal government’s cannabis prohibition violates the constitutional rights of cannabis patients in California.